Innovation is good for you, says the Flemish public service broadcaster #CRAConf

From Belgium, Floris Daelemans is a digital radio innovator at VRT, the Flemish-language public broadcaster that has a 63% market share.

VRT has three innovation labs, he explained: a traditional R&D department, a prototyping group, and VRT Start-Up.

VRT Start-Up is a autonomous group within VRT, made to resemble a small start-up rather than a small division of a larger broadcaster. It has its own space, and just four permanent staff members.

Daelemans highlighted the five stages that his team use to work on new ideas – empathise, define, ideation, prototype and test.

Of the products they’ve worked on, he highlighted a number of things that have been successful.

Aha!  is a product made for older audiences: realising that much of their internet activity is on Facebook. It contains editorial deliberately made for the Facebook audience, drawing people back to the radio service.

Ninjanieuws is a new, concise format for news broadcasts, using Instagram to reach younger audiences. Short video clips of news are delivered that successfully reach young audiences, with over 10,000 followers for the MNM top 40 brand that VRT run.

Failure is good, Daelemans said. He highlighted one such failure – a service they called, where you could select music, a presenter and a mood – and it would play relevant music and videos. “People hated it,” he said – it was too complicated to set up, the music wasn’t good enough, and it never caught on. But the team used these failures to learn more.

At the end of this year they are concentrating on work called Hack The Sound, aimed at the 25-45 age group, working out how to produce better formats and content for them.

Since VRT carries commercials, they do also consider a business model. Daelemans talked about the use of a Business Model Canvas – which his team is using to better understand how a product might work commercially.

His message was that innovation can be done cheaply; that you can learn from it; and that you can translate it into new products. “We’re usually seen as a playground, but we’re not – we’re focused on new ideas.”

“Innovation is something that our CEO has embedded in the entire operation,” he adds.

Reporting: James Cridland

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